Mansfield News

District defines exam exemption

Students in advanced-placement classes next year will no longer be able to earn exemptions from final tests simply by showing up for their AP exams.

Shutting that loophole – which cost the district $287,000 in wasted exam fees over three years – was part of a “clarification” of exemption requirements that the school board approved last week by a 6-0 vote.

AP students have been able to earn exemptions from their course exams, prepared by their teachers, by taking the nationally standardized AP exam. But they haven’t had to do well on the exam, which helps determine college credit for the course.

Even receiving the minimum one out of five points on the exam earned the exemption as well as the weighted credit from the course. Weighted credit provides extra points for taking certain classes.

“We wanted to make sure it was fair across the board,” said Board President Michael Evans. “We agreed with the administrative proposal; it will make this a fairer process for everyone.”

Under the new guidelines:

A student can earn up to two exemptions from final exams in each the fall and spring semesters, by scoring an 80 average and being absent no more than twice in the class for which the student is seeking the exemption.

A student taking an AP course can earn additional exemptions by scoring an un-weighted 80 average and having no more than two absences in that class.

Students will lose their exam exemptions if they are assigned to an alternative class or campus for disciplinary reasons, or fail any class because of excessive absences.

The new guidelines no longer include performance on state assessments as a criterion for earning an exemption, said district spokesman Richie Escovedo.

The cost has been a concern since the district first started paying the AP exam fees rather than require the students to pay. Last year the fee doubled to $89.

The district’s handling of the issue was two-pronged. In March, it removed an incentive to take AP exams by requiring that the students need only pass their course to earn the weighted credit.

“For students wanting to earn exemptions, the message is simply do well in your classes and come to school,” said Escovedo.